Monday, 28 November 2011

A Spooky Way To Write?

Ghost writing has nothing to do clanking chains, wailing spirits hiding under dust sheets, or skeletons getting up and boogying about in churchyards. It's actually about offering your skills as a writer to somebody else. However, your name doesn't get credited with the writing - instead that goes to the person who you're doing the writing work for. So, what's in it for the writer? Well, money. (Hopefully.)

Ghost writing is more common than you probably think. Many a celebrity memoir has been ghost written by a 'jobbing' writer. Hunter Davies has written the 'autobiographies' of Wayne Rooney, Paul Gascoigne and John Prescott.

But, it's not just celebrities who need writers to write their words for them. If you think about it, everyone has a story to tell (just look at the true life magazines on the shelf every week). But not all of these people are good with words ... or writing them down and putting them into sentences that tell a compelling tale. Which is where the you, the ghost writer, come in.

Ghost writing is a business transaction. A writer offers their writing skills for payment. One of Lynne Hackles' first ghostwriting jobs was to write a love letter on behalf a friend. Her payment was a jam doughnut. Since then, Lynne's gone on to ghostwrite many other projects (this time for money), which she fits in around all of her other writing projects (short stories for magazines like Fiction Feast, columns for Writing Magazine, and many, many more).

It's possible to ghost write anything - a love letter, a best man's speech, an article, short story, autobiography, even a novel. If you would like to know more, I can recommend Lynne Hackles' book, Ghost writing. Here she tells how she began ghost writing, and demonstrates that many jobs are quite ordinary (just don't have your client hand over the cash in the window of a coffee shop, for all of your friends to see ... as Lynne once did. It gives a whole new meaning to 'services rendered'!). The book also has quotes from other ghost writers, each giving advice and tips for this line of work.

If you enjoy writing, and have never ghost written before, then Lynne's book will help lay down the groundwork, that many other ghosts have taken years to discover.

Good luck.

Monday, 21 November 2011

I'll Put That Bit There ... Part 6

For the final posting in this I'll Put That Bit There mini-series, I wanted to look at Headers and Footers. If you're submitting your text to an editor within the main body of an email, (by cutting and pasting it, for example) then you don't need to worry about headers and footers in your manuscript. However, for many fiction manuscripts, when you have to submit a hard copy of your text, headers and footers are important.

Some magazines that accept short stories prefer manuscripts to be paper clipped together, not stapled. If you're sending a book manuscript to an agent, or publisher, then most of them stipulate that printed pages should not be bound in any way. (They do this because it makes it easier for them to read the text, not to annoy you.) However, the drawback of this is that it's much easier to lose a page or to drop the entire manuscript and have to pick up the pages one by one. Heaven forbid the writer who hasn't numbered the pages in either the header or the footer, in that situation!

If you're using Microsoft Word, to view the Header section of your manuscript, go to View, then select Header and Footer from the drop down menu. Word will take you to the header, to begin with. (For other word processing packages, checkout the Help section for 'Headers and Footers'.)

What should you put in your header? Well, on the right hand side of the page I type my surname, the manuscript title (or an abbreviated version if it is quite long) and the page number. So, my header will look something like this:

Whaley / Manuscript Title / Page Number

Whatever text you enter into your headers and footers, it will appear like this on EVERY page. (It is possible to set this up so that it doesn't print headers and footers on the first page, if you give your manuscript a cover sheet, or title page.)

This means that if you manually type in 1, for page 1, then every page will have 1 on it. So, for automatic page numbering in Word, go to Insert and select Page Numbers from the drop down menu. This will automatically insert the correct page number on each page.

In the footer of the manuscript, I insert a method of contact, usually my email address. That's in case a cover sheet with all of your contact details goes astray. Does this happen? Yes! Read this post here. You can't expect every editor to go to the lengths this editor went to, to track down this writer, when her cover sheet was separated from the main manuscript. At least by putting some contact detail (email address or telephone number) in the footer, you know it will appear on every page of the document.

One final word of warning. Competitions. If you enter manuscripts into competitions, check your headers and footers. Most competitions judge entries blindly - so they do not want any marks on the manuscript that can be used to identify the writer - that means any names or contact details in headers and footers should be removed! Failure to do so, could result in your entry being disqualified, and that's a waste of your entry fee. Simply put the title in your header, along with the page number.

Using headers and footers means that should an agent decide to drop your manuscript across the floor of her homeward-bound train, or if a competition judge opens a window and lets the fresh air blow all the entries across to the other side of the room (both such situations have happened), then at least you know your manuscript can be brought back together again, without too much trouble.

Good luck!

Monday, 14 November 2011

I'll Put That Bit There ... Part 5

I often say to magazine and non-fiction book writers that offering photos with your submissions not only increases your chances of publication (because picture sourcing is immensely time consuming and therefore you're making the editor's job easier), but it can also increase your fee too.

Magazines are visual products these days (getting side tracked - did you buy last week's copy of Woman's Weekly magazine, which included a copy of its first issue over 100 years ago? Yes it had pictures, but there were an awful lot more words in it than today's magazine has!) so page layout is important. Photos and pictures help with this. But you are not the page layout designer, so you do not need to worry about where to put your photos in your script.

In fact, you do not 'insert' your photos anywhere into your word processing document. Magazines cannot take the photo from your word processing document and then use it successfully in their page layout software. When you import a photo into your word processor, there's a high chance that the word processor will process the image and throw away some of the data, so that your document does not become some humongous 56 gigabyte file! Magazines need high quality images and those inserted into documents are not as high quality as they could be.

When inserting images into a word processor, many then start moving the text around the image, which goes on to create other formatting problems within your document.

Giving a magazine the largest file size you can provide offers them flexibility. With a large file size, they may be able to use the image as a double-page spread Like so:

They can also use the image much smaller, if that's what they prefer. What they can't do, is take a smaller thumbnail image and use it as a double page spread. Once you start enlarging an image, the quality deteriorates quickly. And if the quality isn't in the image in the first place, because it has been placed into some word processing software, then it is practically unusable.

So, if you have suitable images, save them as individual files on your computer in JPEG format. When you save them, give them a useful file name that includes the following:

  • A unique reference number
  • A suitable caption
  • Clarification as to who owns the copyright
The photo in the top of this posting is one page of a six-page feature I wrote for Discover Britain magazine. The image of the unusual AA phone box was saved as follows:

IMG_0001 - The 1920 AA Phone box in Eardisland- Herefordshire - by Simon Whaley

When I wrote the feature, at the end of my article text, I added a subheading, List of Illustrations, and then I listed the file name of every image I was supplying with my accompanying article.

This is sufficient for an editor to identify which images they want to use, whilst also giving them enough information to caption the image on the page. There is no need to insert any images within your document anywhere.

I usually burn the images onto a CD Rom, although this is mainly because my camera has 21 mega pixels, so the average size of each of my photos is about 18 megabytes (and I supplied the editor with nearly 30 photos for this feature) so emailing this many images would bring down my own email account along with the magazine's too!

If you're pitching an editor with an idea and you have photos available, it can be useful to attach low resolution images to your email pitch, to give the editor a flavour of the types of images you have available. I always ask how the editor prefers to receive large-sized files. Some stipulate CD Rom submission, some will say it's okay to email if there are not too many images, whilst some magazines operate a specific email address for photos only. (Another reason for not inserting the images into your text!).

So next time you want to include images with your article, all you need to do is list the unique reference number, the image caption, and who owns the copyright in the photo at the bottom of your article. You do not need to insert the photos into your text where you think they ought to go. Just ask the editor how they prefer to receive image files and then follow their instructions.

Good luck.

Monday, 7 November 2011

I'll Put That Bit There ... Part 4

Editors love bonus material - text that can be used to break up the page with further information, fascinating facts or practical what-to-do-next steps. These are referred to by a variety of names such as further information panels, boxouts, sidebars, or fact file boxes.

When you analyse a target publication, look out for these sections. Travel magazines practically always have them. This is where readers can find out which airlines fly to that destination, what the website address is for the local tourist board, or the websites for the tourist attractions mentioned in the article. Boxouts and sidebars are also used to provide extra quirky information. Take a look at the picture here - it's fact file at the end of a long article about Scotland, and is headed up as Top 10 Uninhabited Islands. This is extra information that does not appear within the main article.

If you see a magazine regularly uses these fact files, or boxouts, then you need to consider including one, or more, with your proposed article. And if you're targeting a travel magazine that has a standard sidebar of practical information for potential travellers with headings like:

  • How To Get There
  • Where To Stay
  • Where To Eat
  • What To Do
  • What To Avoid
... then you need to provide this information, with those headings, too.

But, you don't need to put this information in a box. Don't insert a Text Box into your manuscript, with a border all the way around, and then enter your information. Just give the information. 

The safest way to do this is to put this information at the end of your article, after your concluding paragraph. Drop down a couple of lines and then give your Further Information Panel a heading. So, in the example in the photo here, the writer would simply have typed the heading:

Top 10 Uninhabited Islands.

You do not need to put in parentheses afterwards (boxout information) or (suitable for a side panel). Editors are quite clever and will be able to work it out, especially if you're following the format that the magazine uses for every article within its pages!

Then, underneath this heading, type the information that you're giving. In this Top 10 Uninhabited Islands example, you'll see that the text is bullet pointed. How the text is displayed in the magazine is down to the editor, or the page layout designer. You can use bullet points, although personally, if my headings have a number in them I number each point - the last thing I would want to do is offer ten top tips and only provide nine! What you don't need to do is use a different font size, or even a different font. Stick to the same font and size you have used throughout the rest of the article.

If you want to offer another boxout, then simply give that a new subheading and write the information underneath it.

So, remember. Further information panels, side bars, boxouts, or whatever you want to call them, come at the very end of your article, and the information they contain does not need to be inside a box, table, or grid.

Good luck.